Life is full of turns; some expected, others not. Last week while my husband and I were at Comic Con, walking down the isles, bemoaning the seemingly haphazard dismantling of the Small Press section, we came across Gabriel Bá’s table. At first I was not sure he was there, as it was a common table for several artists, but he was, and I quickly told him how much I enjoyed Daytripper. I tried to be smart, professional, and polite, because I felt that there was not proper way to tell him that half way through his book I was gripped by such a level of emotion that I sat and cried for about 15 minutes before I could pick up the book and continue reading. I could not find a way to express this without seeming crazy; an erratic stalkerish fan. However I hadn’t planned on seeing him at all, so I said thank you and shook his hand.
That too is how Daytripper finds its pace; it casually walks through the life of the main protagonist Brás de Oliva Domingos, a journalist with a family and career, and finds unexpected paths and meaning. The trade is a collection of 10 issues, most ending with obituary of the main character, who himself is an obituary writer for a Sao Paolo newspaper. While the concept of the continued death Brás may sound like a creators gimmick (and perhaps it is), his death soon feels like a regular construct of the reality of the book, a framework to use for the creation of meaning. With each issue developing a different time period of Brás life, we encounter different circles of friends and family and the changing importance of those people as he finds varying meaning and emphasis in his life. As a reader, it is sometimes hard to know which events have actually happened from one issue to the next, as the books are not told in a linear birth to death sequence. Instead they playfully jump back and forth through time. Brazilian authors and illustrators Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá draw from the strong precedent of magical realism in the literature of Latin and South America, and allow time and fate to create a narrative from the overlapping time and realities.
Brás de Oliva Domingos main objective is to understand the concept of life. As the son of an extremely popular writer, he has a life that has been constructed for him, one that seems to be working against him as he too is trying to create a life for himself as a writer beyond his day-to-day work crafting obituaries. Only through the often ordinary death of his subjects, the somewhat extraordinary airline accident which he covers and the intense death of a long time friend, does Brás begin to come to terms with the life he has constructed for himself from the moment that he was born as the miracle child born in a massive power outage to the birth of his own son.
Moon and Bá depict something that is not often seen for readers in the United States, average middle class Brazilian life. It is not a life of poverty and favelas nor violence and drug king pins. It is a world that has ordinary people living, falling in love, working and of course, dying. This is not to say that violence and poverty do not exist in Brazil, or even Daytripper’s version of Brazil, but it is part of a much larger cultural fabric. The writing style of Moon and Bá, is both concise and casual, giving a feel for the stories of Brás life that is one of a long time friend that you catch up with occasionally. They create concern about Brás not through his repeated death but through his ordinary struggles to find a wife, separating from a lover, and feeling like he is not living up to his own potential. The world is brought to life through smart and efficient drawings with lines that create the energy of the many spaces the story occupies from beach to cemetery. The panels and pacing gives a feel for the business of Brazil and the solitude of Brás.
The pages turn quickly in this extremely compelling trade paperback, racing toward a conclusion and understanding. However, like most creative outputs that have death as a primary topic, there can be only one ending for the story. With the obituary at the end of each issue it creates a moment of pause, creating an equivalent moment of “What would my obituary say if I died…” or perhaps how would it read for the person next to me, and then it clicks. It is not about what the obituary says it is about the understanding the life it represents, and the only way to do that is to turn the page.